Hampton by Hilton Global Brand Head Shruti Buckley said as the 35-year-old brand continues to expand to new markets and guests, a clear value proposition, positioning and innovation are key.
NEW YORK—In its 35th year, the Hampton by Hilton brand has its largest-ever pipeline of hotels in development, with 695 hotels globally, more than half of which are in international markets, including some that are new for the brand.
“We have 360 some odd hotels in the pipeline outside of the U.S., in another 18 new countries. We’re in 27 countries now, with properties in another 18 to 19 new countries coming online,” said Shruti Buckley, global head of the brand.
Hampton is a “35-year-old healthy brand, which is remarkable, that continues to have this success in the U.S., but it’s a relatively new, emerging brand overseas,” she said, noting the brand recently marked its 10th anniversary in the United Kingdom and will hit a milestone of 2,500 hotels open around the world—including 100 in China—this year.
Countries the brand has entered or will enter this year include France—where the Hampton by Hilton Paris Clichy opened in late January—as well as Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Chile—where a first property has opened and a second may open by the end of 2019.
The Hampton brand, positioned as upper-midscale, appeals to owners in part because of the growing middle class in these markets, Buckley said. Many of those owners have become familiar with the brand when visiting the U.S., where Hampton is well-established with nearly 2,300 hotels.
Despite that saturation in the U.S., the Hampton brand has some room to grow in the country, particularly in up-and-coming markets west of the Mississippi, Buckley said.
“Believe it or not, because the economy has changed so much in the past 10 to 15 years, there are some markets which have actually really developed quite strongly, which we believe is a great opportunity for Hampton,” she said, noting that markets that once were not considered Hampton markets now are.
Also, “as older hotels exit (the system), we’re able to replace them with new, fresh product, which is really great,” she added.
“We’re not looking at 1,000 more units here, but certainly a few more hundred units within the U.S. the market can bear. We’re reaching the four corners of the U.S.—Maine to Miami to Portland … San Jose and Oakland.”
As the brand is introduced to new markets and guests, Buckley said it’s important to properly convey Hampton’s core hospitality and service focus, as well as what distinguishes it from other Hilton brands and competitors.
“It’s interesting, when you enter with Hampton in some markets, a lot of the time, you’re known as the Hilton. So in some cases, when we enter a market, we know early on that you almost have to train the consumer … that this is not a full-service experience,” she said.
“Where we’re able to overcome that is that really great hospitality and a warm welcome when people come in. We’re taking advantage of front-desk team members, and training them to help folks understand what our service model is. We’re not going to deliver roomservice at 1 in the morning, but here’s what you are going to get: great service and all the great amenities that you need.”
It’s also key to understand where, or if, a Hampton fits into a particular market, which requires some thought for Hilton’s other brands, she said.
“We’re not just looking at Hampton alone, but we make sure that we look at if Tru were to come into the market, what Tru would be; what is (Hilton Garden Inn), which already is in some of these markets? To make sure we carve out our space, and that we’re very clear who we are, so that we don’t become the Taj Mahal Hampton in one place and a basic Hampton in another,” she said.
Keeping the brand relevant means continuing to be innovative—something Hampton is known for in the midscale segment.
“With so many new competitors coming into the market—they’re coming in at the midscale level, coming in above, then you have other disruptors that are not your traditional hotel experiences—how do we make sure that we continue to outperform? Service and innovation.”
New Hampton breakfast
One way the brand is innovating is with its breakfast program. Known for being the first hotel brand to offer a free breakfast, Hampton is now preparing to roll out an updated breakfast menu and model, which Buckley said has been a long time coming.
“When you roll out something of this magnitude, you want to make sure you’ve got it right, so we did a lot of piloting and testing,” she said.
The program includes three new menu components, new signage and display-ware and a hospitality host.
“Because Hilton has really been leading the way with digital key, how do we make sure we deliver on the guest experience, if we don’t get them at the front desk, because they’re going straight to their room? We thought because we offer breakfast, and have an 85% take rate (with guests), let’s take advantage of that breakfast timeframe and introduce a hospitality host,” Buckley said.
The hospitality host at breakfast “may serve you coffee, ask how was your stay and what are you going to be doing today,” she said.
The updated breakfast menu improves on the basics and introduces new staples, she said.
“We also look at some of the core elements, such as: How do we just get better eggs? Believe it or not, that was one of the biggest things we kept hearing from guests, and we delivered against that,” she said.
The Hampton hot waffle is also getting a makeover, switching to mini waffles which can be made and mixed in a variety of flavors. Other new additions to the menu are Greek yogurt smoothies, fresh-pressed juices, fresh baked goods and a sirloin hash as one of the rotational hot items.
“This is about reinvigorating our breakfast experience,” Buckley said.